Originally written on BroncoTalk  |  Last updated 9/18/12

Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws the ball against the Atlanta Falcons during their game at the Georgia Dome on September 17, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

“Just three bad decisions,” said Peyton Manning.

You’re about as likely to see Peyton Manning make three bad decisions in one quarter as you are to see Elvis Dumervil get utterly shut out at the line of scrimmage, but both occurred and played significant factors in the Denver Broncos‘ Week Two Monday Night game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Manning threw three first quarter interceptions and Knowshon Moreno handed the Falcons a first quarter fumble to give the Falcons a +4 turnover ratio in the first fifteen minutes of play Monday. Then Atlanta, led by the steady and impressive Matt Ryan, gained ten points off those turnovers and never relented, leading the Broncos 20-0 in the second quarter and 27-7 heading into the fourth quarter before Manning and the Broncos came storming back. The Falcons ultimately stemmed the late Broncos comeback attempt, though, defeating the Broncos 27-21 on Monday Night Football.

Manning finished 24 of 47 for 241 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions in the loss, while running back Willis McGahee finished with a much stronger night, rushing for 113 yards on 22 carries (5.1 avg.) with two touchdowns. Von Miller had the Broncos’ lone sack on a night when the Falcons’ young quarterback showed to be quick and accurate when getting rid of the football.

Tonight, the Broncos learned a lot of things about themselves. They learned that they have a quarterback who can mask a lot of flaws, but they also learned that Peyton Manning can’t mask them all. He can’t mask a pass rush that is neutralized by the Falcons O-Line. He can’t mask an offensive line that struggles to pick-up the blitz. He can’t mask a wholly disappointing and damning performance by the NFL’s replacement referees (more on that later). He can’t mask a defense that fails to force a turnover. He can’t mask the three turnovers he committed himself.

But he nearly did anyway. The Broncos were a third down stop away from getting the ball back in Peyton Manning’s hands with less than three minutes to play. The defense had stopped the Falcons on the back-to-back drives prior, they just needed one more stop than they got. They needed the Falcons to press forward for one less yard than they did.

“I never felt like we were out of it,” Champ Bailey told Lindsay Jones of The Denver Post. “We fought our tails off those last three quarters.”

Tonight, those three bad decisions were just too much to overcome in three quarter. The Broncos won’t often find themselves in that type of hole.

And if they do, they know it’s possible that Manning might be able to dig them all the way out.

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